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January 15, 2007

Idolized Eagle BC hoop star Brown is one part Diana Ross, one part Diana Taurasi

CHESTNUT HILL - Rebecca Miles saw Ayla Brown's "American Idol" performances for the first time two weeks ago.



All she had to do was take a quick look on Youtube.com, the wildly popular video search engine.



"I don't know this person," Miles said as a clip of her long-haired Boston College teammate lit up the computer screen. "The Ayla I know is diving on the floor for every loose ball and scrapping for every rebound."



The story, related by Ayla's father Scott Brown, illustrates his daughter's unique versatility. One part Diana Ross, one part Diana Taurasi, the 18-year-old is deftly juggling two promising careers.



She released her first album, "Forward," Oct. 17; just a few days after basketball practice began.



"I don't know of any other student-athlete in the country who's had the massive pendulum shifts as she's had," said her father, a Massachusetts state senator.



Less than a year removed from her 13th-place finish on "Idol," the 6-foot freshman forward from Wrentham, Mass., headed into the weekend averaging 7.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 21.8 minutes per game for the Eagles (10-6, 0-2 Atlantic Coast Conference).




Her basketball and music, Scott Brown said, go together. If you took one of them away, he joked, "You'd have half an Ayla."



Avoiding Idol trappings



Before a recent game at Conte Forum, the screams grew too loud for her to ignore.



Brown turned to the group of young girls and waved. One held up a sign with "Ayla Brown is our American Idol" written in big letters.



"Oh, my God, Ayla!" a few teammates joined in.



"I just kind of laugh it off and make it fun," Brown said.



The other players occasionally crack jokes, but it didn't take Brown long to convince them she had more to offer than a good voice.



"Kids are all about basketball," BC coach Cathy Inglese said. "She has the ability. (The players) understand it. They're happy for it. They wouldn't be if she wasn't a worker, if she was a princess type kid. But she wasn't."



Off the court, Brown is, by all accounts, as well adjusted as a college freshman can be. Her first-semester GPA was 2.86. (All A's and B's except for one class, she said.)



The hectic travel (flights to Los Angeles) and appearance schedules (she sang with the Boston Pops on July 4) have been scaled back. After all, it's basketball season.



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